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Advisor of the month: June 2020

Kim Niewolny, June 2020, Advisor of the Month, Advising Matters at Virginia Tech.

Kim Niewolny

Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education in College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


What do you enjoy about your role in advising?
As an advisor, I deeply enjoy building relationships with my students to help develop their skills and capacity with regard to their own professional and academic aims. For me, I believe it is important to make time with each student to help facilitate the needed space for their self-discovery and success as a whole person. I especially enjoy the opportunity to uplift their student experience by finding opportunities to collaborate on projects, co-attend conferences, craft their published work, and celebrate their milestones and achievements!

In what ways have you contributed to advising in your department/area?
For the lasts ten years, I have and continue to formally and informally advise numerous undergraduate and graduate students in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. Additionally, I serve on graduate student committees across campus. I also serve as a graduate advisor for students enrolled in the Online Masters of Agriculture and Life Sciences (OMALS) program in CALS. I have also had the honor of participating as a faculty mentor for undergraduate students in the newly launched CALS Sustainability Scholar Program. Lastly, as a faculty member of the Civic Agriculture and Food System (CAFS) minor in CALS, I have provided faculty-student guidance to a number of undergraduate students across campus enrolled or interested in the CAFS minor.  

What advice would you give to other professionals who want to a make a difference in the life of their students?
Food for thought: While it is important to provide students with our disciplinary expertise and support, I believe successful advising includes much more. From my experience, I feel that forming personal connections is perhaps the most significant step in the role of an advisor. Getting to know our students as “people first” is, for me, necessary to foster the kind of trust and motivation needed to support their professional and personal goals as they move through Virginia Tech. For some students, the process can be a challenge. I believe we need to listen to their experiences. Again, from perspective, this is sometimes most notable in working with my advisees who are first generation college students or students who identify with a historically undeserved cultural community. I personally identify as a first-generation college graduate, which is something I bring to my advising role. I truly believe it is our responsibility, as faculty advisors, to help create a dignified experience to foster each of our student’s potential to the best of our abilities.